Nalleli Cobo

Environmental Justice Advocate

Nalleli Cobo led a grassroots campaign to permanently shut down a toxic oil-drilling site in her community in March 2020 at the age of 19—an oil site that caused serious health issues for her and others. Her organizing against urban oil extraction has yielded major policy movement within the Los Angeles City Council and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which voted unanimously on bans of new oil exploration and phasing out existing sites. Nalleli grew up in South Los Angeles and launched her activism as a 9-year-old after noticing foul smells emanating from the oil well across the street from her home. Over the years, she endured headaches, nosebleeds, and heart palpitations caused by pollution from the well. She began attending meetings and rallies with her mother and, at the age of 9, gave her first public speech on the issue. Even as a child, her skills as an orator caught others’ attention and paved the way for her to eventually become the leading spokesperson for banning oil extraction in Los Angeles. She co-founded People Not Pozos, which aims to secure a safe and healthy neighbourhood, and the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition, which focuses on environmental racism in the community.  In March 2020, Nalleli’s tireless organizing culminated in the definitive closure of the AllenCo drilling site across the street from her childhood home. In addition, thanks to her work, AllenCo executives are facing over 24 criminal charges for environmental health and safety violations. Moreover, Nalleli’s leadership spurred preliminary votes in the City Council in favor of banning oil extraction in the city in 2020. She was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 19. After three surgeries and medical treatment, she was declared cancer-free but cannot have children as a result of her illness. In the end, Nalleli led a citizens’ movement that shut down an oil drilling site and initiated the process to phase out the largest urban oil field in the US. Nalleli’s story and leadership also inspired the enactment of SB 1137, which bans all new oil wells within 3200 feet of communities in California. Nalleli won the 2022 Goldman Environmental Prize, was named on the 2022 Time 100 Next list, California Energy Commission Hall of Fame, Activist of the Year, Agente de Cambio, and more.